Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele‘ia, Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, and
immigrated to NewZealand in 1978. His contemporary
paintings and sculptures are imbued with his Pacific island
heritage. Filipe is a master craftsman of the traditional art of lalava, the
Tongan art of binding with coconut sennit, while his sculptures
reflect a pan-Polynesian aesthetic that he sees as a means of
fostering understanding between cultures.
His work speaks not only of his homeland of Tonga, but the
experiences of migrating and living in New Zealand. He works
with a wide variety of media from wood, stone, and wool to
industrial materials such as steel and perspex. Filipe uses natural
media to represent the past and steel as a contemporary
"For me, stainless steel represents the shiny new structures in
the modern world. Wood is based more in tradition - in natural
things from our environment."
Filipe has worked on an international level since carving his first
commission for the New Zealand Embassy in Saudi Arabia in
1987. Two years later, he held his first solo exhibition at the
Govett Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand.
Filipe instructed many students during his years at Rangimarie
Arts and Crafts Centre and was a founding member of the Te
Kupenga in New Plymouth. He has been a full time artist since
1990 and has participated in numerous exhibitions around the
world including the UK, Lithuania, France, Germany, USA, and
Japan. Filipe has major public sculptures in New Zealand, Fiji,
Tonga, Japan, and China.